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CELEBRATIONS OF EASTER EVE.
Nyssen, and St. Augustine mention that the Monday and Tuesday in Easter week were observed in their time both in the western and eastern churches; and Lactantius alludes to the keeping of the Easter Eve; Pierius of Alexandria, called for his learning Origen the younger,' is recorded to have preached on a text from Hosea, by St. Jerome; and Philip, the Emperor, as a sign of his profession of Christianity, offered to attend the solemnity, on the vigil. It was called the Great and Holy Sabbath, being the only Jewish seventh day which was eventually retained by the Church. St. Chrysostom, and writers of the fourth century, mention it by its appropriate title. St. Gregory Nazianzen calls it the "holy night of illuminations.” The day was distinguished by a strict fast, in reference to the words of our Saviour, Matt. ix. 15, followed by a midnight assembly for worship, the Easter vigil, which was observed with great solemnity in the time of Constantine and Theodosius; and Eusebius vividly describes the splendour of the illumination which took place on this occasion. Innumerable torches and lamps blazed in the streets, churches, and private houses, so as to turn night into day, being (Nazianzen says)," the forerunners and heralds of that great Light, even the Sun of Righteousness, which the next day rose upon the world.” The Greek Church maintains the celebration still with great ceremonial; but the nocturnal solemnity of the vigil was abolished in the west by the Council of Autun, in 578. Philo the Jew, mentions that the Christians of his day" after supper celebrated a holy whole night's vigil, as a pure and virginal observance.” It was the great occasion for baptism and the eucharist, with the intervention of confirmation on the night and morning of Easter day. In the primitive church, it appears from Lactantius and Jerome there was a universal expectation of the second coming of our Lord on this night, and the early Christians therefore prepared themselves for the advent, watching until midnight, which was about the hour of His resurrection. Towards the end of the fourth century, particularly in the Greek church, the custom prevailed of baptizing catechumens on this night, and consecrating the water in the font; and this was continued in the mediæval rite of HALLOWING THE FONT. St. Ambrose informs us that the bishop washed the feet of the newly baptized in imitation of our Saviour's condescension. In a rationale set out in the time of Henry VIII. hallowing the font is explained “to be as it were a vestigium, or a remembrance of baptism that was used in the primitive church” on this Eve (Collier. v. 121). By English councils, 1071, c. VII; 1237, c. III. ; 1268, c. I., the administration of baptism, except in extremity, was restricted to the eves of Easter and Pentecost only. Another custom was that of lighting a colossal Pascual Candle, signifying the Resurrection of the Lord and the consequent rejoicing of the Church, to which the ninth canon of the Council of Toledo has an allusion. It is possibly a remnant of the ceremonial of Constantine, but it cannot be clearly traced to a period earlier than the sixth century. In the old ritual, it was compared to the pillar of fire which guided the children of Israel through the desert. So high and ponderous were these candles, that at Chartres one weighed 72 lbs.; at Rheims, 30 lbs.; at Rouen, 40 lbs.; and at Canterbury and at Westminster, in 1557, 300 lbs. At Durham the Paschal candle nearly touched the vaulting; at Coutances it was lit from the clerestory; and in St. John's Lateran, the deacon was wheeled in a portable pulpit to light it. According to the Sarum Use, it was to burn throughout the octave at matins, mass, and vespers; and from it every taper in the church was to be rekindled. At Durham it was kept under the stairs leading to St. Cuthbert's shrine, and set up from Maunday Thursday until the Wednesday after Ascension Day, just behind the three silver lamps, that hung before the altar. Rising from a square stand enriched with four flying dragons at the corners, and the figures of the four evangelists; with "curious antique work" of archers and bucklermen, spearmen and knights, and beasts; with broad leaves spread upon the “knotts of latten metal glistening as the gold," and seven fair flower-shaped taper-stands, it was at length crowned by a long square wax taperthe Paschal-so tall that it was lighted through the roof of the church. It
was, the quaint author of the “Rites” remarks, "estimated to be one of the rarest monuments in England."
In the eleventh century we have an insight into another peculiar rite, the HALLOWING OF THE FIRE, as practised at Canterbury, in the Constitutions of Lanfranc. On Easter eve the convent in albs, singing the Miserere, came through the eastern walk of the cloisters to the new fire from which the Paschal was to be lit. After the fire had been blessed and sprinkled with holy water, the sacristan lighted a taper on the top of a long lance-like staff, the master of the choristers kindled his lantern, and the procession, often headed by the archbishop in person, with incense, and cross, and lights, returned to the choir chaunting the hymn “ Inventor rutili.” The servants of the cellarer, rekindled with the fire remaining in the cloister all the hearths which had previously been extinguished. At Rome formerly all the fires in the city were rekindled from the holy fire. At Salisbury, after the hallowing of the fire, the “ Septiformis Litania” was chanted by seven choir-boys in surplices, and followed by a mass led by the precentor.
Another custom immediately connected with the expectation of our Lord's return, was the erection of the Easter sepulchre, which is not to be confounded with the modern Romish ceremony, as the latter is opposed to it both in ritual and in point of time. In a rationale set out in the time of Henry VIII., the explanation is given that "the sepal
chre was prepared and well adorned in remembrance of His sepulture," wherein is laid the image of the cross. At Heckington, Navenby, and Patrington, there are beautiful special tombs of stone built for the purpose, with appropriate imagery; and the three sleeping guards of the thirteenth century, still to be seen in Lincoln Minster, are among the best sculptures of the middle ages. At Hawton an exquisite specimen of late Decorated art, perhaps about the year 1307, represents the four soldiers on guard, with curious arms on their shields, two asses' heads braying lustily, in allusion to the Jews;
an angry soldier's head, in allusion to the Romans; the dragon, typical of the evil spirit; and the repulsive head of the traitor Judas. In a groined recess, the rising Saviour, bearing his cross, appears to the three Maries, while attending angels minister to Him. As at Brockenhurst, in the New Forest, in parish churches, a tomb on the north side of the chancel served for the purpose. In other places it was composed of framework and rich hangings, erected for the occasion, as at St. Mary Redcliffe, and Durham cathedral. In the latter minster, the sepulchre was set up on Good Friday “after the fashion, all covered with red velvet and embroidered with gold.” From it on Easter day, between three and four A.M., two of the most aged monks took a figure of the risen Saviour, holding a cross, and laying it on a crimson cushion richly embroidered, brought it to the high altar singing “Christus Resurgens.” It was then carried to the south choir door, where “four ancient gentlemen held over it a rich canopy of purple velvet, tacked about with red silk and gold fringe.” And so it was carried in procession “round about the whole church, the whole choir waiting upon it with goodly torches and great store of other lights, all singing and rejoicing, and praising God most devoutly, till they came to the high altar again.” In old parish accounts we find entries for lights for the sepulchre, and sums paid for watchers--persons who had charge of the tapers and lights, which had to be renewed from time to time as the parishioners watched in turns through devotion; and in large parish churches there was a continual crowd of worshippers from Good Friday till Easter day. In France the service was profaned by attempts at positive personation, which was the cause of its abolition by Cardinal de Joyeuse, Archbishop of Rouen. The following is an interesting instance of the manner in which the early Reformers recalled the minds of the people to the inner meaning of the old popular ceremonials, which “Barnaby Googe " so savagely assailed, asserting that the people brought in roast meat, great custards, eggs, radishes, trifles, clouted cream, and cheese to church at matins to be blest by the priest, while on the eve they carried away a brand from the holy fire to rekindle their hearths, after having marched nine times round the font in procession.
VOL. 1.-NO. IV.
Matthew Parker, afterwards the archbishop, in 1539, in reply to certain accusations, replies that on Easter Monday, at Clare Town, he explained to his parishioners that “their procession on Easter morning, when they followed the choir about the church with 'Christus Resurgens,' was an open protestation of their faith that Christ died for their sins and rose again for their justification, and to declare and testify openly to the world that they would henceforth follow Christ in their conversation.”
Easter Day, called in the Ancyran canons “the great day,” being the birthday of our Saviour into his state of glory and exaltation [Ps. ii. 7], as His first nativity was the birthday to His state of humiliation, was held so sacred that the clergy were bound by the council of Agde never to be absent from their cures on the day under pain of excommunication for three years; and, as by the present rubric of the Church of Eugland, all the faithful were bound to be communicants. On Easter morning, the primitive Christians were accustomed to greet each other with the words, " The Lord is risen,” to which the reply was, “He is risen indeed.” In the Greek Church the same salutation is still practised and the solemn hymn sung, “Life of the Holy, Glory of the Angels, Life of the Righteous; by death Thou, O Christ, hast triumphed over death."
In our own service the anthem contains the words, “ Christ is risen again.” The primitive Church distinguished the day by solemn celebration of the Lord's Supper, the baptism of catechumens, appropriate salutations and demonstrations of joy, liberation of prisoners by the orders of Theodosius and Valentinian, the manumission of slaves, hospitality, almsgiving, and a general holiday for servants throughout the week. Theodosius prohibited all secular spectacles; and the Council of Orleans, 533, forbade any Jew to appear in public on the eve or day. Churches are still hung with garlands of flowers, and at Berkeley Church, near Frome, with the evergreen yew. George Herbert prettily alludes to the custom when he says, –
“I got me flowers to shade Thy way,
I got me boughs off many a tree,
And brought Thy sweets along with Thee."
This symbolism is very beautiful, for the place wherein Christ, the second Adam and Gardener of God's acre (Gen. ii. 15; St. John xx. 15), rose, was in a garden where the ground was fresh and green and full of flowers, at the instant of His rising. The young blossoms and leaves of spring are the very type of resurrection (1 Cor. xv. 36, 37); and His coming to the seeds of life sown beneath the sod, shall
the dew of herbs, and the carth shall cast forth her dead." (Is. xxvi. 19).
DANCING OF THE SUN.
“: 'Tis in that faith the flowers of earth
Their very best make speed to wear,
For wild thyme fresh and violets fair.
From briar and turf may duly blend,
Come early near and lowly bend.”
Modern poets have, with few exceptions, omitted to take this festival for their theme and inspiration. Herrick, in his “Noble Numbers,” wrote his very poorest verses on the occasion in the style of an epigram. In Ireland, the custom of presenting Easter nosegays still prevails; they are made of a ball of primroses in the shape of intersecting triangles, with a white six-leaved anemone (the pasch flower) in the centre. In Warwickshire, a branch of the palm willow is substituted as the principal ornament. The Quartani, a distinct sect from the Quartodecimani, are registered by Constantine Hermenopulus as heretics, because they continued their fast on Easter day until three in the afternoon. Several councils held in France in 1002 viewed fasting from the Ascension to Whitsuntide as an indifferent matter. Others held a very different view, for Neubrigensis relates a characteristic anecdote of the Irish in the time of Henry II., who imagined that the best celebration of Easter consisted in the provision of a large stock of food and drink taken by violence, and a banquet purchased by thieving and plunder. There was a curious superstition once prevalent that the sun danced for joy on Easter morning, which is alluded to by Sir. T. Browne in his “ Vulgar Errors," apostrophized by grave Bishop Hacket in a sermon, and made the subject of a lively allusion by Suckling, to a bride on her wedding morning :
“ But oh! she dances such a way,
Is half so fine a sight.” In France the school children and clerks used to make a procession to the parish church with hand-bells and tambours, and burlesque flags, to show their delight that Lent was past, and they might resume their favourite food. In 18 Edward I., 450 eggs were purchased by the king's orders, for 18d., to be gilt and distributed at court; and one of the oldest English proverbs is, “I'll warrant you for an egg at Easter.” The Jewesses at the Paschal Supper added a hard-boiled egg
in honour of the Rabbinical bird Ziz.
In Greece, Russia, Mesopotamia, in Richmondshire, the northern and midland counties, the custom of presenting eggs is still preserved. In the old coaching days, eggs were duly laid out from early morning to late at night on Easter Monday, for all passengers disposed to eat them. In